History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.
– Alan Bennett, The History Boys
As a historian, as a feminist, as a woman, the importance of International Women’s Day is not lost on me. However, I have always promised myself that I wouldn’t be political on my blog, and I’m going to stay true to my word.
So, for International Women’s Day, instead of being preach-y (catch me on Twitter for that), I want to highlight some of the most influential women in my life. I’d love to hear yours – which women inspire you every day?
Influential Women of 2019
I would like to kick off this list by saying: if you’re a woman, you already inspire me. Cheesy right? But us gals need to stick together, and I have nothing but admiration for girls around the world. You are all amazing. However, we’re here for specifics, aren’t we? So, without further ado…
When I first started getting into history as a sprog, it was dominated by men – men in medicine, men in power, men in war. It was only in going to university that I was able to see that actually, women had a tremendous role in the makings of British History and actually, Tudor History (which is my forte) was just as much made by women as it was by men.
It was Suzannah Lipscomb, who I first saw on a documentary about Hampton Court, that truly blew my mind. Not only were there women being written about in the books I was reading, but the books I was reading were actually being written by women. An expert in Sixteenth Century History, Suzannah tears apart what you thought you knew about the Tudor era and explains it in a way that, as a historian, I can only ever aspire to.
Since, if a documentary has the incomparable Suzannah presenting or any publication cites her as an author, I’m there. She’s fiercely feminine, but also one of the smartest people on the planet in my opinion (and it’s my blog, so my opinion matters right?). When people ask what I want to be when I grow up, the answer is always: Suzannah Lipscomb.
Again with the politics, eh? I may be distancing myself from the Labour party at the minute, but that does not stop me admiring Angela Rayner, the Shadow Education Secretary. Again, in a world dominated by wealthy men (and in today’s society, which world isn’t?) she’s risen above the ranks and proved a key figure in today’s political landscape.
Rayner left school to prepare for her life as a mother and relied on organisations such as Sure Start, which helped form her socialist-led opinions on education and politics. She’s a great example of how someone’s background shouldn’t matter in how far they come and what they achieve, and what impact they can leave on the world. She’s even a favourite to take over the Labour Party after Jeremy Corbyn! Talk about women in power.
Both being educated at Manchester Metropolitan University, it’s no wonder I feel such a connection to Julie Walters. With amazing women to look up to on the big screen: Helena Bohnam Carter, Olivia Coleman, Victoria Wood (RIP) and many more, it was difficult to just pick one woman from the entertainment world. However, Julie Walters has always been an inspiration for me because, like Angela Rayner, she started from very little and became one of the most successful women in her industry.
From working with Victoria Wood (another idol of mine), and her famous ‘two soups’ sketch (which I can’t find anywhere on the internet unfortunately!), to her stage acting, to her more prominent roles as Molly Weasley in Harry Potter, Mrs. Wilkinson in Billy Elliot and Rosie in Mamma Mia, she has one of the most impressive acting careers of the 20th/21st Century.
File under cheesy and cliche, but very true. I could dedicate an entire life’s worth of blogging to how wonderful my mum is, and how much of an inspiration she is in my life. I’m not about to go telling her, or my, life story in such a public forum, but that woman has overcome so much! Family means everything to the both of us, and my mum, sister and me make up an impenetrable unit that will not bend or break for anything. It’s us against the world, forever.
I can honestly say that my mum is my best friend, and without her guidance, support, love and honestly wicked sense of humour, I’d be very lost. I draw my happiness and my strength from that amazing woman and I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have fallen out of her womb and not someone else’s.
So, who are your main influences in your life? Never underestimate the power of a woman, we are strong, we are fierce, we are mighty.